Saturday, 21 January 2012

Gilles Jacquier: The follow up (Sister Agnes-Mariam's full interview)

By Lizzie Phelan

Following the attack on Homs that killed eight Syrian civilians and France 2 journalist Gilles Jacquier, the west's mainstream media for the most part parroted the accusations of the Syrian opposition that the attack was perpetrated by the Syrian Army.

But today anti-Asad, pro-war French newspaper, Le Figaro, has quoted Syrian opposition figues laying the blame for the attack with the so-called "Free Syrian Army" (FSA).

The quoted officials have called the killing of Jacquiers a "terrible blunder", but no remorse has been shown for the murder of eight civilians in Akrama, an area well known for its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

Some senior FSA officials continue to blame the Syrian government, saying they do not have the kind of weapons used in the attack, but the French Ambassador swiftly whisked away Jacquier's body from the hospital in Homs, preventing Syrian doctors from carrying out a post-mortem, which would have given the public more evidence as to whom was responsible fo the attack.

Moreover, Arab League officials who are by no means allies of the Syrian government having suspended its membership to the league amongst othe hostile acts, have also held the FSA responsible.

This admission is extraordinary because it is highly damaging for the FSA - one can only speculate as to why it has come now, is it a sloppy damage limitation exercise?

There are many question marks surrounding the death of Jacquier and indeed just Jacquier himself and the delegation of foreign journalists that entered Syria at that time.

I am not going to make any of my own conclusions, although of course I have my opinions, I am simply going to present all of the things I know.

The testimony of some sources such as Sister Agnes-Mariam (below), as well as some others, indicates that perhaps Jacquier had contact with the groups from the so-called “Free Syrian Army” who captured five Iranian engineers on December 20.

Prior to Jacquier’s visit, his channel sent a letter to the Syrian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of information, requesting that Jacquier be embedded with the Syrian Army’s most key batallions, including that of President Bashar al-Asad’s brother, Maher al-Asad.

The request was immediately rejected by the Syrian Government. At the very least, the French media, in tow with its government has been at the forefront of demonising the legitimate Syrian Army.

Jacquier however did produce a report some months previously that lent credence to the Syrian government’s insistence that its army is coming under attack by armed gangs.

However, once his chance to be embedded with the military had been blown out of the water, he had less to lose and I witnessed myself how he was no longer concerned with winning brownie points with the Syrian government. At a press conference on January 9th in the Dedeman Hotel, Damascus, where we were both present, Jacquier seized the opportunity to criticise the Syrian government, accusing it of having no evidence for its insistence that there was a media war against the country, and condemning it for not allowing journalists in the country earlier.

In fact he specifically interrupted a leader of an opposition party to criticise a video that had been shown to us which featured the mother of a boy called Sari Saoud who had been killed by armed gangs. His body had been whisked away for half an hour, and photos that were taken during that time were screened by Al Jazeera which claimed that the boy had been killed by the Syrian army.

The mother herself was in the press conference and reacted very harshly to Jacquier and his colleagues for having the gall to question the extent of the media fabrications that were taking place. “Al Jazeera killed my son,” she said.

Sari Saoud's mother

So was Jacquier really concerned about showing that armed gangs are attacking the military as the letter from France 2 states? Or was there some other reason for the request for him to be embedded in an important part of the Syrian military?

Moreover the plot thickens in light of these photos published by Paris Match, one of France’s most popular weekly magazines, which show the Iranian engineers in captivity. The writing on the flag in the picture says "Al-Farouq battalion" - this battalion is affiliated to the so called "Free Syrian Army". The man in army fatigues is well known terrorist "Abdul Razzaq Talas”. How is it that this magazine’s journalists got access to the captors when the Syrian and Iranian government themselves have not an inkling where they are?

How is it that this photographer/s in the first place had contact with terrorists? And do they not have an obligation under international law to hand over as much information as they can to Syrian and Iranian law enforcement agencies so that the lives of these engineers can be protected?

The lady who has been named as Jacquier's girlfriend, Caroline Poiron, who can be seen in the footage of the attack that killed Jacquier in a state of shock, is also a Paris Match photographer. She was supposed to be joined by Paris Match reporter colleague Flors Olive, but Olive cancelled her trip shortly before she was due to leave for Syria (I also have the documents to show this).

Paris Match photogapher and Jacquier's girlfriend: Caroline Poiron

Sister Agnes-Miriam became involved in the situation in Syria because she herself realised, from meeting victims and people directly involved in the conflict, that what was happening on the ground was not what was being reported in the world's mainstream media.
Sister Agnes-Mariam

She wanted to help in facilitating groups of journalists to come into the country to give them the opportunity to report things exactly as they saw them.  Gilles Jacquier was one of those people she wanted to give an opportunity to, and after France 2's initial request for him to be embedded in the army was unsuccessful, Sister Agnes facilitated his entry into the country to give him a chance to report honestly on the conflict between armed groups and the Syrian army.

In this interview she says that she knew that Gilles had close connections with the Free Syrian Army in the Baba Amr and Bab Sba'a areas of Homs and that she had given him the opportunity to go and meet with them.

Other sources have also reported that Jacquier requested that he and his colleague be left alone to go into those areas and not be accompanied by his translator Mireil.

I have transcribed the interview with Sister Agnes because of the poor quality of the video interview.

Sister Agnes-Mariam's testimony 12/01/2011

The [journalists] requested to go to Homs because they wanted to cover mainly the security forces and the army harassed by the armed gangs. I couldn’t go because I didn’t want to, I wanted that they would be completely free and not accompanied. So for the first time, while another group - this is very important- composed of BBC, CNN and many other media were escorted by the Ministry of Information went to Homs on the same day, our group had the permission to go in their own cars, with their own guide, in their own transport and to have their own schedule. They had permission to visit Damascus and its area and Homs and its area freely for five days.

So what I know exactly is that they were in three minibuses. Each team had its own translator and they were led by the AFP photographer and also the translator of France 2.  They arrived very late to Homs and this was a big mistake because everyone knows that Homs begins to boil and is very dangerous from 3pm. They arrived at 2pm and went directly to al-Safir Hotel and I was reassured that they were secured because France 2’s Gilles Jacquier had very nice connections with the opposition in Baba Amr and Bab Sba'a.

Also I negotiated with the authorities permission for Gilles Jacquier as a special privilege to leave the others and go alone with his team to Baba Amr and to Bab Sba'a. So I was reassured that the opposition would not perform any attack while those reporters were in Homs. And on the other hand I was sure that the security forces would not perform attacks because the Arab League observers were in Homs.

Flemish television phoned me from Brussels to ask me to provide for their team an encounter with the Alawi community. So I phoned to the governor and asked him to help this team to have an encounter in the Alawi area of Homs.

So they arrived late, they went immediately to the al-Safir Hotel, phoned the governor who sent a delegate - a young woman - to the President Square and after this meeting they went immediately to the street which connects to this square called al-Hadara and there there is another square called Nazha. So the bus stopped there, and they began to interview people. After a very short while the security forces escorting the delegate of the governor told everybody that it was approaching 3 o’clock and that it was very dangerous and they had to go immediately to the hotel. Everybody went into their bus but the Flemish reporter was absent, so they had to find him, he went very far interviewing people right up to another place called Akrama. So they went at their own risk, to bring back the Flemish team. When they arrived to Akrama they saw that many people had gathered around the Flemish team to demonstrate, to shout their anger and their fear about terrorist acts they are always victims of every day so when they arrived in Akrama and found the Flemish team, there were many people who had gathered spontaneously to protest.

By this time a mortar fell on a building and hit a fuel tank, so the reporters seeking action hurried into a building and climbed to the roof. While they were there another mortar hit the school in front and they were filming. The third mortar hit in the middle of the demonstration.

It has been explained to me that it seems probable that someone was indicating the target to the mortar sheller and on the first try he told him move a lot, he then moved to the school, then he told him to move to the centre of the demonstration. So it hit the demonstrators and it injured the eye of the Dutch photographer.

When the mortar hit the population the reporters wanted to come down to be able to shoot the scene so they were coming down and the AFP photographer heard Gilles Jacquier saying “now it’s clear”, so he thought that the shelling stopped and Gilles Jacquier said to his translator Mireil: “Stay behind me because you have to translate I want to interview the people”. So they were in the entrance of the building striving to go out and they were still behind the door of the building when the fourth mortar hit the same place but the same place was very near to the entrance and this mortar exploded in Gilles Jacquier who fell down on his back, he fell on Mireil and he fell dead. Mireil also had three fragments from the mortar in her leg.

The people present there told me, and I heard also from the governor, the mortar came from Bab Sba'a - this is true, and any army expert can come and see the strike hole of the mortar and work out where it came from. This is the first thing.

The second thing is that the journalists were inside the building and it's evident that the target was the civilian demonstrators.

I have been told by the BBC reporter that the bus of the BBC, CNN and other reporters  that came on that same day to Homs, saw our three buses arriving to the place where they stopped because they were there a few minutes before.

So we believe that the terrorists thought that the reporters had left the place and that’s why they hit the population because they saw the bus leave the area and they thought it was free of reporters. That’s why they did what they do every day which is to target the civilian population and of course there are people looking, but they look from a distance, from far, so they could not determine that the buses that were there were not from the government - they were private buses so they thought that everyone there was from the civilian population.

After maybe three hours of the news, I wasn’t with the journalists I was in Damascus, so when I knew I went immediately to Homs. I arrived to the entrance of Babaamr at about 6.30pm and I had been contacted by the BBC to give the news and BBC gave it to [Le Figaro journalist] George Malbrunot. George Malbrunot added that the group was invited by me, that I am a pro-regime nun and that I was with them. So I phoned George Malbrunot to ask him why he was lying? I did not invite them, I am not pro-regime and I was not with them. Immediately after other people wrote that Gilles Jacquier had called them to tell them I had obliged him to go to Homs. Le Soir said I was not in Homs because I was part of a plan by government forces to kill Gilles Jacquier.

We had to wait one hour at the western entrance of Homs, it was very dangerous - there were clashes between the army and the terrorists, so when we arrived at the hospital they told me but “we know that you are kidnapped, everybody is saying you are kidnapped”. I said: “Well I am here.”

So you know since this very day in the mainstream media I see they are striving to tell their own story of events even if they are lying. My concern is that the journalist who were there are beginning to lie, especially those who said they [the government] promised us to be free and we are not free and this is a false statement against the Munich Charter, because they were completely free and nothing changed and there are people who can prove that.

Since then, every moment false news is coming. Gilles Jacquier died with a civilian population, an innocent population, targeted by unidentified armed gangs. The way to help this population and to protect civilians as international law states is to really know the identity of the victims to be able to know the identity of the criminals.

The mainstream media are going very far from their real mission and they are really offending the Munich Charter of reporting. They are not , they are making propaganda and to make propaganda they have to falsify events to use it in a global frame which serves the objective of the political class and this is a crime because they don’t care about the victim but they pretend to care about human rights. By doing so they manipulate the victim to use them for their own objective and this is a crime.


  1. Dear Lizzie :

    Indeed there are many question marks surrounding the death of Jacquier. I would like to lightening some issues concerning the French government behavior.

    1- In international legal standards, the autopsy of the victim must take place in Syria and the French government has the right to appoint a medical examiner to oversee the procedure. what happened instead? The Syrian government has now been stripped of its right to independently determine the causes of the reporter’s death by transporting his body to France.

    2- In criminal law, the act that France has engaged in of repatriating the body of Jacquier is qualified as a misappropriation of a body (In criminal science term destroying the evidence)this will result any judicial branch to declare the autopsy report null and void.

    Summary: French government violated international legal standards and criminal investigation standard destroying ,alter or deteriorate the evidence beside French Government work to systematically exploit the unfolding events against the Syria. All of this raise the question What is France trying to hide about the death of Jacquier ?

    Based on this article

  2. "History Repeated Itself"... The same old story... Who remembers? WHO CARES?!

    We do still remember what was happened in Tripoli when NATO bombed the Soq El-Joma'- Zenata Area. NATO confessed and confirmed that NATO forces did the bombing of the neighborhood, and it was a technical error!!!


    In Benghazi, the Libyan journalists confirmed and argued with a foreign broadcaster "ARABIA" that Qaddafi forces did this criminal act.

    The Libyan journalist said, "NO, even that NATO confessed, but we still believe that Qaddafi forces, who did it?!


    the bombing of Majer Area in Zletin city, in which 36 persons have been killed at once... and, etc....


    who remembers?! WHO CARES?!!!